Asia Olympic leaders back idea to include Oceania athletes

DANANG, Vietnam (AP) " The Olympic Council of Asia has backed a proposal to allow athletes from Oceania to compete at the Asian Winter Games in Japan next year.

OCA president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah said the executive board approved the idea and was waiting for acceptance from organizers in Sapporo, where the games will be staged in February.

"The athletes from Oceania would be competing as guests, under their flag, and their results would not be counted for medals, only for technical purposes," Sheikh Ahmad said after the OCA's general assembly in Danang, Vietnam on Sunday.

International Olympic Committee vice-president John Coates, who heads the Australian Olympic Committee, made the proposal in order to give winter sports athletes in Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the Oceanic region access to high-level competition ahead of the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

The Pyeongchang Games kick off a run of three Olympics in Asia, including the Summer Games in Tokyo in 2020 and the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.

"This is an unprecedented achievement having three consecutive games on your continent," IOC president Thomas Bach told delegates at the meetings.

"The Olympic movement is counting on Asia and relying on the great contribution you are making to our worldwide effort."

Other decisions made at the OCA's general assembly:

" The city of Nagoya and Aichi prefecture in central Japan were selected to host the 20th Asian Games in 2026.

" The 18th Asian Games in Jakarta-Palembang, Indonesia in 2018 will feature four of the five new sports accepted by the IOC for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games sports program. Baseball/softball, karate, skateboard and sport climbing will be included in the next Asian Games, but surfing was not added to the program because of a lack of suitable venues in the host cities.

" The OCA constitution will be changed to allow each National Olympic Committee to enter a maximum of two athletes in each individual event in the Asian Games, breaking from the Olympic quota of three.

" The OCA approved the creation of regional offices in five zones: Delhi for south Asia; Almaty, Kazakhstan, for central Asia; Bangkok, Thailand, for southeast Asia; Kuwait for west Asia; Nansha, China for east Asia.

" Member associations empowered the OCA executive board to visit candidate cities for a new headquarters if necessary. The Kuwait government canceled the diplomatic agreement with the OCA in November last year following the IOC decision to suspend the national Olympic committee because of government interference.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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